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Preview: Freedom to Tinker

Freedom to Tinker

Research and expert commentary on digital technologies in public life

Last Build Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:56:53 +0000


When the cookie meets the blockchain

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:56:53 +0000

Cryptocurrencies are portrayed as a more anonymous and less traceable method of payment than credit cards. So if you shop online and pay with Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, how much privacy do you have? In a new paper, we show just how little. Websites including shopping sites typically have dozens of third-party trackers per site. […]

Getting serious about research ethics in computer science

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 13:00:58 +0000

Digital technology mediates our public and private lives. That makes computer science a powerful discipline, but it also means that ethical considerations are essential in the development of these technologies. Not all new developments may be welcomed by users, such as a patent application by Facebook that enables the company to identify their users’ emotions […]

Design Ethics for Gender-Based Violence and Safety Technologies

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:00:08 +0000

Authored (and organized) by Kate Sim and Ben Zevenbergen. Digital technologies are increasingly proposed as innovative solution to the problems and threats faced by vulnerable groups such as children, women, and LGBTQ people. However, there exists a structural lack of consideration for gender and power relations in the design of Internet technologies, as previously discussed […]

LinkedIn reveals your personal email to your connections

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 10:00:03 +0000

[Huge thanks to Dillon Reisman, Arvind Narayanan, and Joanna Huey for providing great feedback on early drafts.] LinkedIn makes the primary email address associated with an account visible to all direct connections, as well as to people who have your email address in their contacts lists. By default, the primary email address is the one that was used […]

On Encryption, Archiving, and Accountability

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 12:58:08 +0000

“As Elites Switch to Texting, Watchdogs Fear Loss of Accountability“, says a headline in today’s New York Times. The story describes a rising concern among rule enforcers and compliance officers: Secure messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal and Confide are making inroads among lawmakers, corporate executives and other prominent communicators. Spooked by surveillance and wary of […]

European authorities fine Google for search tactics

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:40:56 +0000

This week the European Commission (EC) announced that it is fining Google $2.7 billion for anti-competitive tactics in the company’s iconic search product. In this post I’ll unpack what’s going on here. I have some background on this topic. In 2011-12, when I was Chief Technologist at the FTC, the agency did a big investigation […]

Killing car privacy by federal mandate

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 11:47:58 +0000

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing a requirement that every car should broadcast a cleartext message specifying its exact position, speed, and heading ten times per second. In comments filed in April, during the 90-day comment period, we (specifically, Leo Reyzin, Anna Lysyanskaya, Vitaly Shmatikov, Adam Smith, together with the CDT […]

Lessons of 2016 for U.S. Election Security

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 15:22:16 +0000

The 2016 election was one of the most eventful in U.S. history. We will be debating its consequences for a long time. For those of us who pay attention to the security and reliability of elections, the 2016 election teaches some important lessons. I’ll review some of them in this post. First, though, let’s review […]

Web Census Notebook: A new tool for studying web privacy

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 14:07:44 +0000

As part of the Web Transparency and Accountability Project, we’ve been visiting the web’s top 1 million sites every month using our open-source privacy measurement tool OpenWPM. This has led to numerous worrying findings such as the systematic abuse of newly introduced web features for fingerprinting, leading to better privacy tools and occasionally strong responses […]

Breaking, fixing, and extending zero-knowledge contingent payments

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 01:28:20 +0000

The problem of fair exchange arises often in business transactions — especially when those transactions are conducted anonymously over the internet. Alice would like to buy a widget from Bob, but there’s a circular problem: Alice refuses to pay Bob until she receives the widget whereas Bob refuses to send Alice the widget until he […]